TBILISI, DFWatch–Parliament in Georgia has again failed to approve new board members for the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB). Groups claim this shows there is a lack of will to free the broadcaster from political influence.
January 23, parliament approved only one new GPB board member, and there must be another round of selecting candidates.
Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili explained after Thursday’s session that only four board members have been approved so far, out of a total of nine, and there must be a new competition to fill the remaining four seats.
The last time the selection process stagnated was in December 2013, when three board members were approved.
Tina Khidasheli from Georgian Dream explained that the coalition was unable to gather its representatives to discuss this issue and select candidates because they were busy with sessions.
A handful of Tbilisi-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) protested against what they see as a lack of will to break with a legacy of political influence over the GPB.
The statement is signed by Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association, Transparency International – Georgia, the Georgian group SIDA (not to be confused with the Swedish development agency), Article 42 of the Constitution, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Human Rights Center, Georgian Democratic Initiative and Media Development Fund.
They write that the commission which has selected a list of 27 candidates for the GPB board has gained significant trust through their transparent practice and offered parliament a wide range of persons to choose from. When parliament still wasn’t able to select enough new board members, it creates suspicion that there is a lack of will to free the broadaster from political pressure.
The NGOs ask the government to quickly put the same commission to work selecting new candidates for board members, so GPB’s activities won’t be interrupted.
OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunia Maytovich said a few days ago that she is disappointed by parliament’s foot-dragging and hopes to see them fill the board soon to provide Georgia with a public broadcaster that is independent from political and commercial influences.
An initiative group formed by GPB employees earlier criticized parliament for saying that many of the 27 proposed candiates were unknown to most people and that’s why they didn’t select them for a ballot.
“This is a weak argument, that the candidates selected by the commission are unknown to the public, which makes us think that MPs aren’t interested in creating a television station managed by free, intellectual people with their own principles,” the initiative group wrote in a statement.
“Based on the same approach, the previous government transformed the Public Broadcaster into a low rating, tasteless television station, which lost trust and gained millions in debt.”
The law about the public broadcaster was amended in 2013 and came into force in late November. The goal was to speed up the process of electing a supervisory board.
The parliamentary majority selects three candidates, the opposition three, the Public Defender two, while the leaders of the Adjara region select one candidate.